Brown-Mackie College Students Join Fight to Keep Grants in Ohio Budget

The Ohio Senate has hearings on the proposed state budget Wednesday, and students fromBrown-Mackie College in Jackson Township will be among groups hoping to be heard.

Students are fighting to keep funding for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant in the state’s budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Brown-Mackie officials say the grants help many of its students pay for their education and training.

But the proposed budget slashes funding for the grants.

Initially Gov. Ted Strickland proposed $30 million in each year, with the money coming from block grant funds and being earmarked directly to the schools. The Ohio House cut the amount to $10 million per year, with the remaining money going to the state’s private, non-profit colleges and universities.

Officials at career colleges such as Brown-Mackie were disappointed to see the grants reduced, and even more unhappy to see the money go to the state’s private schools.

Peter Perkowski, campus president at Brown-Mackie in Jackson Township, said the state’s career colleges, which give associate’s degrees in specialty and training programs, serve the same purpose as private schools such as Walsh University, Malone University and Mount Union College.

Lower state tax revenue is a reason OCOG funds face cuts. Perkowski said career colleges want to keep what they received in the past. “We’re not asking for any more, just for our share of it,” he said.

Brown-Mackie students and staff members plan to attend a rally at the state house and visit legislators, including Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township.

Last month students and school officials met with Ohio Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-Canton, to plead their case. Oelslager said cutting OCOG funds factored into his decision to vote against the House budget bill.

Oelslager said he hopes the Senate can find a way to restore OCOG funding for career schools.

Divvying funds in the proposed budget has been challenging, Schuring said today. “It’s the most difficult budget we’ve had in decades.”

Senate Republican leaders were expected Wednesday morning to unveil budget proposals.

After the Senate passes a budget bill — possibly next week or during the first week of June — the process continues in a conference committee with Senate and House members. Schuring said it will be a challenge to come up with a bill House and Senate members can accept. “I expect an intense amount of scrutiny, deliberation and ultimately compromise,” he said.

The OCOG program will be just one piece of the debate.

At this point Schuring said he believes the state needs to do what it can to help private nonprofit colleges and universities.

“In this tight budget we know there’s going to be some sacrifices,” he said. (Canton Rep)

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